On our 16-day Baltic cruise out of Tilbury, England our second port of call was Warnemünde, Germany. We took an all-day tour (12-13 hours) with our first stop at the former Nazis Concentration Camp of Sachsenhausen. Once we had seen toured the former camp we got back on the bus and were driven into Berlin. What cool artwork on this building! Big Brother is indeed watching. We were taken first to the site of the infamous Berlin Wall. It seemed to me growing up that the Wall was always there dividing socialist East Berlin and East Germany from West Berlin’s democratic part (supposedly to protect it from “facist” elements that would “conspire” to prevent the will of the people in building a socialist state). What it did in reality was cut off, by land, the West Berlin part of the city from the rest of the world. The city was cut in half but the free western portion was surrounded by East Germany so you could only get into West Berlin by air. Construction of the wall began August 3, 1961. As well as the wall itself there was a very wide open section on the Eastern side of the wall. This became known as the “death strip” as anyone who was seen there was shot.
The wall was erected primarily to prevent further emigration from the east bloc policies of East Germany. Prior to the construction of the wall 3.5 million East Germans circumnavigated the East Bloc emigration restrictions by defecting from the German Democratic Republic; many of whom crossed from East Berlin to West Berlin to do so. Since most of the emigres tended to be young and well educated the GDR then built the wall to prevent any further “brain drain” from the east.
There was a great many additional factors going on in Germany and the rest of the world (Cold War era) that also contributed to the creation of the inner border wall. It is estimated that between 136 to over 200 people died trying to escape in and around Berlin. From 1961 until November 1989 when the border was re-opened over 100,000 people tried to escape East Germany and about 5,000 succeeded.
The demolition of the wall began June 13, 1990 and it was completely removed by 1992. However, the history remains. There is a copper strip in the pavement that marks the former location of the wall.
One foot in the East, one foot in the West.
At the location of the famous American “Checkpoint Charlie” border crossing there is an opportunity (for a fee, I am sure) to have your photo taken with some men posing as American soldiers.
Many of the concrete sections of the wall have been painted by local artists and are on display.
From the site of the former Berlin Wall we were driven to the Holocaust Memorial. This huge sculpture in the middle of Berlin commemorates the millions of Jews who were executed by the Nazi’s during World War II. It is constructed on part of the Death Strip of the Berlin Wall in an area that housed many former administration buildings of the Third Reich. The official name is the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and it covers 4.7 acres (19,000m²). I found the image below on the internet which gives an idea of the size. We, obviously, only wandered amid a small portion.
By Orator – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
There are 2,711 concrete slabs (called stelae) in a grid pattern on a sloping field. They are all the same length and width, but vary in height from less than 8 inches (0.2m) to almost 15 1/2 feet (4.7 m). They are also not perfectly aligned, nor all precisely vertical.
A block away from the memorial is the Brandenburg Gate, another iconic feature of Berlin.Then it was time to make the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Warnemünde and the ship.